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A collection of ideas for teaching about the

distinctive Christian understanding of God


South Eastern Diocesan Advisers July 2013

Compiled at SEER retreat 2013 for use of RE advisers

Page 1

Background
The ideas below have been gathered and developed by the South-eastern Diocesan advisers
as material to be used in lessons or units of work on the Christian belief that God is Trinity.
This is not the easiest area to tackle and we hope others might find it useful in their work.
Please let us know of other ideas you have seen or used in school.

What do we mean by Trinity?


Adapted from Teaching Christianity at Key Stage 1Seaman and Owen
Christians believe that God is revealed to them in
three ways God the Father, God the Son and God
the Holy Spirit yet remains one God. Whilst
Christianity is one of many faiths that believe in one
God (monotheists), this belief in God as trinity is a
distinctive feature and marks a real difference from,
for example, Judaism and Islam.
This central belief developed in the early church
when Christians were struggling to explain their
understanding that Jesus was God on the earth as a
human being. Trinity or tri-unity (three as one) was
a term they developed to try and explain the relationship between God, Jesus Christ and
the Holy Spirit. This belief in Trinity was later defined in the statement of faith at the
Council of Nicaea in AD 325; the Nicene Creed is still repeated by many Christians today
in their worship.
The creed says:
We believe in one God, the father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth
This describes God as a creator. The image of God as Father has had a lasting
significance to the Christian faith down the ages.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God .
Christians assert that Jesus is both human and divine; this was the way in which God
experienced what it was to be human.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life
For Christians, the Holy Spirit is the power of God, whom people experience in their
daily lives. He is God in us, God the sustainer and God the encourager.
This way of trying to make sense of God might be thought of as a
matter of intellectual curiosity, but down the ages Christians have
looked for ways of talking about their experience of God, without
doing injustice to the majesty and the all-embracing might that this
word entails. The doctrine of the Trinity is one result of this
searching, and it remains a mystery that God can be the Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit all at the same time.
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The Bible does not explicitly teach the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; it is rather assumed.
The story of Jesus baptism is often referred to as involving all three persons of the
Trinity and can be found in the gospels (Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4, John 1).
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commands his disciples to baptise in the name of the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit baptismal words which continue to be used when people
are baptised today. In 2 Corinthians 13:14 St Paul ends his letter to the Christians at
Corinth with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the
Holy Spirit be with you all. These words are still said by many Christians today and are
known as the Grace (different from grace which is said at mealtimes).

Why is it important to teach about Trinity?

It is a key Christian doctrine which attempts to


make sense of Christian experience of God. It
demonstrates something of the nature of faith
and mystery in Christianity.

It emphasises the Christian belief that at the


heart of God there is a relationship of self-giving
love and that for Christians faith is about that
God reaching out for a loving relationship to
them.

Christians talk about Jesus as God, thereby begging the issue of who he is in
relation to God in heaven. Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit e.g. John 14 and 15
in the Bible, who would come and be with his followers; the Holy Spirit is God
alongside us. How does this relate to Jesus and to God in heaven?

Trinitarian references and formulae abound in Christian worship e.g. saying In


the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit when people sign
themselves with a cross, when the priest blesses the congregation, when people
are baptised, etc.

Christians celebrate Jesus birth at Christmas the incarnation of God on the


earth and they also celebrate Pentecost as the coming of the Holy Spirit. Major
festivals cannot be ignored in RE and pupils must explore what they actually
celebrate. Jesus baptism is celebrated in the season of Epiphany and in the
Ethiopian church is a major festival called Timkhet.

Trinity Sunday in some churches falls in the early summer and introduces a
season often referred to as Trinity. Vestments and cloths in some churches are
green and this is seen as the season to grow in understanding of faith
appropriate to this particular doctrine.

Get into good habits!

Do ensure that the children learn that Christians believe God can be related to in
a personal way and can even be their friend.

Do ensure that symbols of the Trinity are there to support understanding rather
than being an end in themselves.

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Do encourage big questions even if you dont know the answer to such things as:
Where was Jesus the Son when God created the world?

Do encourage connections between Bible Stories and the Trinity

Do encourage God-talk throughout the curriculum e.g. isometric patterns and


talk of the Trinity, mini-beasts and the creator.

Do be kind to yourself remember that Trinity is ultimately beyond human


understanding. One of the greatest early Christian theologians said that trying to
explain the Trinity was like trying to empty the ocean with a cup.

Do not suggest that God can be broken into separate parts.

Do not allow the different symbols to lead to thinking that God is inanimate e.g.
God is a triangle is wrong.

Dont close down big discussions even if uncertain about your own knowledge.

Use 4 card circles with words


as below, 3 each of is and is
not cards and some art
straws.
Talk about the Christian idea
of the Trinity.
Ask pupils to create a diagram
which shows relationships of
the persons of the Trinity
using all the cards?
Compare with this classic
version on the left.

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Thirty Ideas for introducing the Trinity


1.

Trinity flexagons
A flexagon is a folding strip which can be opened in
three ways to show symbols for each of the persons of
the Trinity. A little tricky but very satisfying to make.
Pattern and instructions from Flame: Creative Childrens
Ministry. We felt an extra instruction or two was
needed. Do NOT try with children before you have
successfully made one but it really does work!
You could design one with different trinity symbols.
Compare the struggle to make this with the early Christian struggle to make sense of
the belief that Jesus was God and the implications that has for monotheism (belief in
one God).
http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/trinity-flexagon-print-out-make-andplay.html

2.

Mobius strips
Using strips of A3 paper, experiment with making a
Mobius strip. How many surfaces does it have? Draw
round with a marker pen to show it has a single surface.
Cut round this line. What happens? 2 linked circles. Cut
round one of the circles again. What will happen?
See demo at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVsIAa2XNKc. Their final experiment gives 3
circles but if you follow the instructions above you get all 3 circles linked centrally.
Do NOT try with children before you have successfully made one.
Tell the story of St Patrick and the shamrock. Add ideas about God the Father, Son and
Spirit to the circles of your Mobius strips.

3.

Trinity plaiting
A classic 3 in one activity. Use a variety of materials to plait
e.g. pipe cleaners, rope, silky scarves, strips of material.
Different colours also useful e.g. green, red and gold.
Introduce the idea of Christians thinking about God in three
ways but how the ideas are interrelated. How could
different colours show these different persons?

4.

Creating clay trinity symbols


Roll out lumps of modelling clay. Cut out a simple shape as the base of the symbol.
Take a smaller piece of clay and roll out as a thin snake. Join the ends and then lay out

Compiled at SEER retreat 2013 for use of RE advisers

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the snake as a three sided shape each side the same. Press
gently onto base and leave to dry or bake.
Alternatively use plasticene / playdough to design and then
photograph Trinity shapes.
Idea came from Festivals of the Christian Year Lois Rock (Lion
pubs 1996)
Talk about how the snake is joined up to make a circle representing God as eternal
and how three equal sides represent the trinity. Name the persons of the Christian
trinity. Look at other trinity symbols.

5.

Story of St Patrick and the Shamrock


Tell the story of St Patrick and how he tried to explain the trinity
by using a 3 leafed shamrock. He looked around him for a three
in one symbol and used it to help him explain the Christian idea
of God.
Why did St Patrick need a three in one symbol? How did he use it? If Patrick was in
your classroom, what would he pick up and use to show three in one? Work in pairs
to find or make something that you think would do the job!

6.

3 in 1: A Picture of God the apple book (Joanne Marxhausen


pubs: Concordia)
This book was designed for use in the Christian community: The
apple has three parts; the one true God has three persons. The
story explores Christian faith in detail using the apple metaphor.
The idea itself could work well in a simpler way with just the use
of an apple itself in class.

7.

Teaching Christianity at Key Stage 1 Alison Seaman & Graham


Owen (Church House Pubs)
Three main activities
1) Three in one: Using symbols and Christian art, then
creating a spinner - a card circle with words Father, Son
and Holy Spirit which merge once spinning
2) Same but different: Using water freezing, drinking and
boiling to represent idea of God being present in 3 forms.
3) A Time to Grow Trinity as a season in Christian calendar. Growing a trinity
symbol e.g. Celtic linked circles from cress

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8.

Sculptures
Research different trinity sculptures e.g. Annie Henry, Cornwall
(see photo), Gubilini, Simon Forstner. Some represent the
Christian Trinity and others are just groups of three.
Divide play-dough into 3 balls. See some of examples above. Can
you make any of them with your playdough? Consider different
aspects or characteristics of different persons of the trinity and
how these could be represented separately and then think about
how to represent them all in one figure. How will your Trinity sculpture be different?

9.

Making the Sign of the Cross


See someone making the sign of the cross. The Brother Francis
video on You-tube is very very short and simple. Maybe you
have a staff-member who can demonstrate. Children could try
the movements out or help a persona doll make the sign.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq36oI-OuvQ
How, why and when is the symbol used? What do the words mean for Christians?
Father, Son and Spirit are how Christians talk about God. The thumb and two
forefingers held together represent the Trinity, while the other two fingers held
together against the palm represent Jesus as human and divine.

10.

Rublevs icon of the Holy Trinity


One of the most famous icons ever painted, this represents
the story of Abraham and the three visitors (story can be found
in Genesis XX: XX-XX). However the painting may be reads as
an image of the Holy Trinity. A childrens talk can be found at
www.emergentkiwi.xxxxxxx.
Older pupils can work with the talk and a copy of the picture.
They can do detailed pencil crayon pictures, make play-dough
models or a person sculpture which they can video with others
doing a commentary on the sculpture. What are the important points to make and
what questions would they ask Rublev? A Christian?

11.

Trinity dominoes
Using a number of Trinity symbols, create simple dominoes or
even better trionimoes and play games with the symbols. Explore
what the symbols are. Use symbols for individual members of the
trinity e.g. god the Holy Spirit, or for the Trinity as a whole. Write
your own rules for how to play the game, including a key to the
symbols. Teach the game to another group of children.
Use www.langleystoys.com for info re Trionimoes for kids.

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12.

Songs for Life


Father, Lord of all Creation is a Trinitarian hymn - a verse
on each person of the Trinity.
A CD resource (Derby and Southwell dioceses) contains a
recording of this hymn and many ideas for teaching pupils to
sing it. There is also enough RE work using the song to
introduce the Trinity to make a good RE unit in its own right.
Songs for Life can be sourced from: www.

13.

Barnabas in Schools
www.barnabasinschools.org.uk/find/trinity/ideas/1
Lots of lesson and assembly materials on Trinity on this website,
including lessons on Rublevs icon.

14.

Using a Celtic style song


Sammy Horners Blessed Trinity is a simple song full of
examples of threes that children as young as Y3 could work
with and maybe use as a basis to write their own poetry or
songs.
Download MP3 track: http://www.amazon.co.uk/BlessedTrinity/dp/B007MPAHIG
Or from Acoustic Celtic Praise: http://sammyhorner.bandcamp.com/track/blessedtrinity-2

15.

Dancing the Trinity


Perichoresis is a theological term meaning the dance of God,
all three persons of the trinity inter-relating in a totally
harmonious fluid way.
C.S. Lewis described the Trinity as a dance saying, God is not a
static thingbut a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almosta kind of
dance (Mere Christianity, p 136).

See notes at: http://www.prismleadership.org/trinitarian-dance/


Dancing alone, and in threes. Create a sequence of movements in threes different
ways of moving together, keeping contact, etc. Use of flags and scarves.

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16.

John Piper's tapestry (1966 Chichester cathedral) The Holy Trinity


Create a jigsaw out of this picture for pupils to find pieces
and reassemble. Divide children into trios; each child has
sight of one third of tapestry and the trio has to reconstruct picture between them on large paper.
Write questions round picture. What would they ask
John Piper? Why is it called Trinity? If you made
something similar, which Trinity symbols would you use?
Cut symbols from sugar paper to make large collage version. Write a commentary as
if in an art gallery. Display everyones pictures. Vote on best interpretation of Trinity.

17.

A simple song:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4hlacGPqQ4 see it sung but not
enthusiastically! Can you do better?
Easy to learn and sing, but what does it say? Lots to discuss in the
words.
1. God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, three in one.
God the Father loves me so, Gave His Word so I would know
God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, three in one.
2. Three in one and one in three, God the Son, He died for me.
For my sins His blood He gave, then He rose up from the grave.
Three in one and one in three, God the Son He died for me.
3. Three in one and one in three, God the Spirit lives in me.
Day by day and hour by hour - Helps me witness by His pow'r.
Three in one and one in three, God the Spirit lives in me.

18.

The cube
Make a cube with opposite sides painted red, yellow, blue. Is it blue
all the way through? Or red? Or yellow?
The cube is made up of 3 dimensions, height, length and width. Each
represents 1 person of the trinity, but all 3 together make up a cube,
you cannot separate the 3 dimensions or else it ceases to be a cube.
You can read more about Trinity explained through the cube at Three-personal God
by CS Lewis. http://ldolphin.org/CSLtrinity.html

19.

Making Trinity Mobiles


What symbols could be used in a Trinity mobile?
Create a mobile in a small group e.g. a St Patrick mobile! Write
about your design explaining the symbols and about Christian
belief in the Trinity.

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20.

Baptism creed
A simple question and response creed is often used and this is a good
way of asking questions about the Trinity.
Act out the baptism first with its Trinitarian words as the water is
poured and then ask questions about the promises and statements of
belief that the parents and grandparents agree to.
Make a banner to hang beside the font in an Anglican church which
includes a Trinity symbol and words from the Baptism service.

21.

Nicene Creed
What is the Nicene Creed and why is it important to
Christians? Ideas for an RE unit for upper KS2 which covers
ideas about the Trinity.
www.cofeguildford.org.uk/school-life/religiouseducation/#re_asu

22.

Modern songs
These are some Trinitarian songs which merit study to help pupils think
more about the Christain understanding of God.

Triune God Brian Doerksen

Praise the Father, Praise the Son Chris Tomlin

Father in my life I see Joseph McGuiness

Listen to the songs (find on the internet e.g. on You-tube). Learn British Sign Language
for God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and attempt to sign these words as pupils listen to
the songs. Discuss song words together and gather all you can about the Christian
doctrine of Trinity. Interview a local Christian and ask questions as a result of working
with the songs.

23.

Celtic Prayers and Blessings


Many blessings are Trinitarian in formula. Look for Celtic blessings
and prayers like those of David Adam in A Celtic Daily Prayer
Companion e.g.
May God the Father bless us;
May Christ take care of us;
May the Holy Spirit enlighten us
All the days of our life. from the Book of Cerne
Find such prayers and illuminate them e.g. in the style of Mary Fleeson from Lindisfarne
Scriptorium. See examples of her work on the Scriptorium website. Possibly write the
prayers in the form of a trinity shaped Celtic knot!

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24.

RE Today services
Opening Up Christianity - this provides a unit of work for 6-7s
on What do Christians say God is like?.
It uses a Trinitarian kenning poem to start children on their
investigation about what God is like, including some simple
work on the Trinity.
RE Ideas: Christianity (7-11s) this provides a section called
What do Christians believe about God? which includes several
pages on symbols of the Trinity and a game to play.
Both from the bookshop at www.retoday.org.uk

25.

Nursery Rhyme Mass


http://www.nurseryrhymemass.org.uk/uploads/media/Nursery
_Rhyme_Mass.pdf
We are indebted to Brian Ogden of Maximus Mouse fame,
who wrote nativity plays to Nursery rhymes. Here you can
download the Nursery Rhyme Mass written by Father Simon
Rundell.
Scroll down to the Creed which is much simplifed and set to the
tune of Frere Jacques. Its final verse is pure Trinity.

26.

Write your own tune


Here is a simple praise song using the names of the trinity. Set it to music or adapt it to
fit the tune of a well-known nursery rhyme tune. Discuss its meaning and how and
where a Crhistian might use such a song. Why is it a praise song?
Praise to the Father,
Praise to the Son,
Praise to the Spirit,
The Three in One
From Carmina Gadelica iii

27.

Glory be
This song by American pastor Michael A. Schmid is based
on the traditional Gloria Patri Glory be to the Father.
Each verse focuses on the activity of one of the persons of
the Trinity.
This anthem is easily learned by a congregation and could
be learnt in school and worked on in RE. Pupils could devise a power-point of suitable
pictures to go with the song and possibly learn to sign the chorus.
http://www.truevinemusic.com/glory_be.htm

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28.

Cracking RE
If you still have this excellent resource somewhere in the
office / staffroom, then Issue 15 focussed on the Trinity and,
as usual with Margaret Cooling, there are lots of good ideas,
unusual symbols and approaches which can be worked up
into a unit of classroom work.

29.

Is God more like a Father, Friend or Helper?


Work on three parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Son and the Good
Samaritan. Pick out the characteristics of the Shepherd, the
Samaritan and the Father. Choose a symbol to represent each
person. Gather the ideas and the symbols in3 overlapping hoops.
Jesus told parables to help us understand more about God what
is he saying God is like? All three? Talk about the idea of Trinity.
Which image of God do you find most helpful?
The work of Australian teacher artist, John Freeman (http://www.johnfreemanart.com/aboutme/) would make a good resource as well as the free videos from www.max7.org.

30.

Godly Play
From Volume 4
This is not an option for most schools but provides an
excellent insight for teachers if you can get a Godly Play
presenter to present it to you.
Lesson 15: The holy Trinity is a syntheses of four Godly
Play presentations (Baptism, the Faces of Easter, Creation and St Paul); the three stories
are gradually integrated by the storyteller and the children together. Then they are
connected to the three circles from the baptism presentation which represent in the
name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The whole presentation leads to a wondering session about the three-in-one God.

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Possible links between activities and opportunities for tackling


assessmenttasks
Learning about Religion and
Belief
Level I can name the three persons of the
1
Trinity.

I can recognise that I relate to different


people in different ways.

Making Trinity symbols e.g. out of clay


Is God father, friend or helper? A look at three of Jesus parables
Teaching Christianity at Key Stage 1
Any work on roles and relationships
Work from Re Today Services Opening up Christianity
Write your own tune

Level I can describe some characteristics


3
of God the Father, God the Son and
God the Holy Spirit

I can talk about interesting and puzzling


questions about the Trinity.

Triangle plaiting
Story of St Patrick and the Shamrock
Making the sign of the cross / the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit be with us now and always.

Level I can identify the ways Christians


2
use symbols to say something about
the Trinity (how the persons of the
Trinity relate to each other)

Learning from Religion and Belief

I can reflect on what's important to me and


make links with Christian beliefs about the
Trinity.

Explore simple baptism creed


Celtic prayers and blessings
Trinity mobiles
Trinity dominoes
Using Sammy Horners Celtic Blessed Trinity
Barnabas in Schools activities
Work from RE Today Services

Level I can show understanding of the

I can describe what inspires and influences

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ways in which the three persons


of the trinity are the same yet
distinct.

Flexagon , Mbius strips


Songs for Life and other song activities e.g. Glory Be
Sculptures looking at large sculptures of Trinity and making your own
Dancing the Trinity
How do prayers and songs address different persons of the Trinity e.g. the Our
Father, or Send us out in the power of your spirit, or Jesus remember me?
What impact do these have on people's lives / view of God?
The coloured cube
Nicene Creed
Rublevs Icon

Level I can explain how a Christian's view


5
of God as Trinity is similar or
different from a Muslim /Jewish
/Sikh/ Hindu view of God

me and I can show the impact of beliefs about


God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) on Christians

I can recognise that some things in life are


complex and mysterious and apply this to
beliefs about the Trinity.
I can give my own and others views about the
inspiration and challenge of relating to the
Trinity.

Compare the Christian way of understanding God as Trinity with different


ways people of faith describe God e.g. 99 Beautiful Names of God (and
Muslim belief in shirk i.e. not associating anyone with God)
Incarnation, the uniqueness to Christianity of God becoming human
Words of some Trinitarian hymns / modern song
Trinity diagram
3-in-1 picture book of God
Rublevs Icon
John Pipers Tapestry create a Christian version and make a Muslim or other
religious one too.

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Here are a few insightful quotations


about the Trinity:

In Christianity, God is not a static thing but a dynamic,


pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if
you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance. [C.S.
Lewis]

"The Trinity is a communion of three persons, three centers of consciousness, who exist
and always have existed in union with one another and in dependence on one another
Each is essential to the life of the others, and to the life of the Trinity. They are bound to
one another in love, agape love, which therefore unites them in the closest and most
intimate of relationships. This unselfish, agape love, makes each more concerned for the
other than for himself. There is therefore a mutual submission of each to each of the
others and a mutual glorifying of one another. There is complete equality of the
three." [Theologian Millard Erickson]

"The oneness of God is not the oneness of a distinct, self-contained individual; it is the
unity of a community of persons who love each other and live together in harmony
They are what they are only in relationship with one another. Each only exists in this
relationship and would not exist apart from it. Father, Son and Holy Spirit live only in and
with and through each other, eternally united in, mutual love and shared purposes
... There is no solitary person separated from the others, no above and below; no first,
second, third in importance; no ruling and controlling and being ruled and controlled; no
position of privilege to be maintained over against others; no question of conflict
concerning who is in charge; no possible rivalry or competition between competing
individuals; no need to assert independence and authority of one at the expense of the
others. Now there is only the fellowship and community of equals who share all that they
are and have in their communion with each other, living with and for the others in mutual
openness, self-giving love, and support; each free not from but for the others. That is how
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are related in the inner circle of the Godhead." [Professor
Shirley Guthrie]

"The persons within God exalt each other, commune with each other, and defer to one
another Each divine person harbours the others at the center of his being. In constant
movement of overture and acceptance, each person envelops and encircles the others
Gods interior life overflows with regard for others." [Theologian Cornelius Plantinga]

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The three divine persons are not there simply for themselves. They are there in that they
are there for one another. They are persons in social relationship. The Father can be called
Father only in relationship with the Son; the Son can be called Son only in relationship
with the Father. The Spirit is the breath of the one who speaks. [Theologian Jrgen
Moltmann]

In self-centredness we demand that others orbit around us. We will do things and give
affection to others, as long as it helps us meet our personal goals and fulfils us. The inner
life of the Triune God, however, is utterly different. The life of the Trinity is characterised
not by self-centredness but by mutually self-giving love. When we delight and serve
someone else, we enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, we center on the
interests and desires of the other. That creates a dance, particularly if there are three
persons, each of whom moves around the other two. So it is, the Bible tells us. Each of the
divine persons centers upon the others. None demands that the others revolve around
him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight, and adoration into them.
Each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to, and rejoices in the others. That creates
a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love. [Tim Keller]

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Matt.28:19.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy
Spirit be with you all. 2 Cor.13:14

For through him (Jesus) we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Ephesians

Pentecost, the day on which we are indwelt by the Spirit, sweeps us up into the dance of
the Trinity. We are summoned to the dance floor, the music is grace and love and
holiness and peace, and the music is supplied by God and His people are invited to sing
and dance along. Pentecost, my friends, is an invitation to a dance. And it gives us the
energy and power to pull it off.
Quote from Scot McKnight:
patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2008/03/28/preparing-for-pentecost-5

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